Having secured a new navigator but still needing crew for his new vessel Lord Captain Black sets his sites on the industrial Hive World of Scelus, a world that processes and packaged nutritional supplements made from the Grox meat of the neighbouring Catan star system; Confessor Cornelius recalls that the system is ruled by the Imperial Noble House Decusis who have a reputation for decadence and an odd tradition of the nobility shaving their heads after the founder of their line was granted rulership of the planet and took monastic vows.
Arriving in orbit a small team takes a gunboat shuttle and follows landing coordinates from the Hive City control station where they are directed to land on a small private docking bay jutting from the shining pristine walls of the Hive Spire, rising many miles above the toxic smog of the planets surface. Lord Captain Black and his party are met by a slimey man known as Dorath Farah, who has been assigned by Lord Corith Decusis to be an envoy to the party and to ensure that their needs are met (also to keep an eye on them Lord Black suspects). Dorath tells them the stroy of how the founder of House Decusis boarded a space hulk with six men, set the fusion reactors to blow (saving the planet) and, by an act of divine providence, managed to get back to the planets surface by means of the only escape pod. Considering himself to be saved by the Emperor’s Grace the founder of House Decusis shaved his head and took monastic vows, every since then it has been the tradition of House Decusis (and those who seek to emulate them) to completely shave their heads.
The group are shown to a large mansion high in the hive spire which is to be their home whilst they remain on the hive world; Dorath tells them that he will arrange a meeting between them and Lord Decusis as soon as he is able to. Whilst the group orders a number of drinks (wine for Lord Captain Black, a 200 year old whiskey for Confessor Cornelius and a passable simulation of hive city grog for Enginseer Prime Pak) the Enginseer interfaces with the local city newsfeed and is surprised to find that portions of the local news updates appear to have been deliberately excised (and would surely have gone unnoticed were it not for his own technical expertise). They attempt to question Dorath about this and, whilst initially he claims ignorance, he eventually admits that there has been some small trouble in the underhive with local superstition running riot.
Meanwhile, in his search for some more honest answers, Enginseer Prime Pak is wondering the grounds and makes the acquaintance of one of the estate chefs, a bald, gruff man named Criute – the two instantly strike up an accord, having both raised themselve out of the murk of the hive bottom through their own talents and skills. Criute has been working in the hive spire for 10 years and has managed to get other members of his family (such as his second cousin Geron who works as a soux-chef in the kitchen) jobs in the Spire. During their talk, Criute pulls out a thick bottle of genuine underhiver grog that he cracks open with the Enginseer; he tells Pak that House Vitanteur are the real power behind the throne in the Hive and that they are a front for a pan-sector crime syndicate. Pak feels a chill as he hears the name, recognising the crime syndicate that has been hunting him ever since he joined the Adeptus Mechanicus.
Cornelius and Lord Captain Black have retired to their bed chambers where they find fully stocked wardrobes and are surprised to find exquisitely carved pleasure servitors, amalgams of flesh and intricately decorative precious metals, waiting to satisfy their every need whilst they remain guests of the ruling family. Instantly sober at the mere thought of such decadence, Cornelius makes a prayer for the Emperor’s mercy under his breath and dismisses the whirring servitor from his presence, secure that the Emperor keeps him free of such blasphemies of the flesh; Lord Captain Black is a little unnerved by the creature and leaves his chambers. Hearing about the servitors through their vox link, Pak sends his servo skull into his chambers and sees a similar creation waiting for him, realising that it could be used to spy on them he recalls his floating servo-skull to him.
The next morning Dorath visits the group to tell them that he has arranged a meeting with the rulers of House Decusis, Corith and his twin sister Dominique; Corith wishes them all the best and gives them free rein to recruit from the underhive although he says that he cannot spare any of his skilled hive city labour force, the noble is also concerned to hear about a potential desruption of the grox meat supply from Catan. During a lull in conversation the ruler of the system takes Lord Captain Black aside and presents a potentially intriguing offer to him before wishing the the party well and telling Dorath Farah to do his best to meet all their needs whilst they prepare to head to the underhive.